Thursday, 18 February 2021

Press Conference by Ngorongoro Youths in Dar es Salaam

In this blog post:

Press conference

The threat of the MLUM review proposal


After the press conference in Arusha on 21st January, held by ward councillors and customary leaders from Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), Ngorongoro youths in Dar es Salaam – all of them university students except one who’s a lawyer - followed up with their own press conference on 8th February. They continued the work to set the record straight about bad policy in NCA including serious human rights issues, the current atrocious management of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) under chief conservator Freddy Manongi, misleading information from the NCAA and in the press (like Manongi’s workshop for journalists in late December, in which he drummed up urgency about population growth and was quoted uncritically in the press, which prompted the first press conference), and threatening proposals. Already the following day, Global tv and E Habari reported about the youths’ press conference, but further news coverage is so far nowhere to be seen.

Joseph Oleshangay and Tubulu Nebasi


In brief, and many of the issues deserve their own blog post (after I’ve found out more), this is what the Ngorongoro youths spoke about at the press conference:


They started by explaining that Ngorongoro Conservation Area is to where the Maasai were moved upon their eviction from Serengeti in 1959, that it’s a multiple land use area where wildlife is to be protected, but where the British colonial governor in 1959 made it clear that, “…the government intends to protect the game animals in the area, but should there be any conflict between the interests of the game and the human inhabitants, those of the latter must take precedent”, that the same Maasai that were moved from Serengeti, and those that already lived in Ngorongoro, are those that continue there today, and that Ngorongoro Conservation Area wouldn’t be what it is today without the presence, blood, and sweat of the Maasai.


Therefore, they said, they are saddened by the abuse committed by the NCAA with its constant intriguing for evictions and work to make life unbearable for Ngorongoro people. They reminded of the saying, “when the hyena wants to eat its young, it first accuses them of smelling like goats”.


There’s widespread poverty caused by NCAA policy. Subsistence agriculture is banned without any alternatives. Permits for permanent houses are denied and so is the import of building materials from other districts, even for the construction of toilets. The NCAA try to deny permits for the development of schools like Esere Girls’ Secondary that was later authorized by PM Majaliwa. Local people are often denied employment in the NCAA or dismissed after changes in requirements. Ngorongoro people returning home from another district are harassed and must show their national identity card, and even voters’ registration card at Lodware gate.


Three teams have been working to find justification for eviction: the NCA General Management Plan team, the Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM) review team, and the Law Reform Commission have all been working with secrecy and without the participation of the people of Ngorongoro. The teams have been used to approve plans already decided by the NCAA led by Manongi, and to convince the public and authorities that the Maasai have become a burden to NCA. One example of bias that the youths find significant is that one of the MLUM review team members, Dr. Ladislaus Batinoluho, five months before the MLUM report was presented by Manongi, presented his own study with identical pictures certainly plagiarized from the report with the same anti-Maasai incitement and he too proposing evictions.


Unsurprisingly, the youths also addressed the NCAA’s use of some media outlets to disseminate propaganda to the public, and the sad fact that some journalists will write misleading information without a thought of talking to Ngorongoro people. Just like the councillors and customary leaders in January, they were upset that the Jamhuri newspaper on 12th January published photos of sacks of charcoal passing them off as were they from Ngorongoro when nobody in Ngorongoro burns charcoal, and the picture even showed a tarmac road that isn’t found in NCA. Though to someone who has followed Manyerere Jackton’s hate campaign against the Loliondo Maasai in over 50 articles in the Jamhuri, full of the craziest fabrications and slander, those misleading pictures seem rather mild …


The youths underscored that the people of Ngorongoro never had a problem with wildlife or conservation, but with laws and policies that don’t respect their rights and dignity. The three objectives of NCA are conservation, tourism, and development of the people living there, but the third one has been totally disregarded, while the NCAA only care about tourism revenue, and not even about conservation. Or how else could the zoning proposal of the Multiple Land Use review report propose to squeeze the entire population into a small arid area? Has there been a decline in wildlife, tourists, or revenue? On the contrary, all have grown with the Maasai as custodians of the land. Even the population density is comparably low, but still population growth is the incoherent argument used for squeezing the Maasai into this arid area. In the opinion of the Ngorongoro youths, the zoning proposal is dangerous to human beings, animals and conservation. It is going to undermine the concept of conservation and the concept of the Multiple Land Use Model which is the essence of the establishment of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.


The youths reminded of that in 1994, the government of President Mkapa approved the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council to represent the Ngorongoro community in the NCAA, and despite its shortcomings the PC has been a link between the people, NCAA, and the government, and was established to fulfil one of the three responsibilities of the NCAA, which is development for local people, and the government agreed to allocate a portion of the NCA proceeds to economic and social development. Still, in 2020 the NCAA in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) – without the involvement of the people of Ngorongoro – transferred the funds of the PC and placed them under Ngorongoro District Council, to undermine the aim of establishing the PC.


At the same time (or in 2017, more exactly) the NCAA banned local people from accessing areas that they depend on for pasture, water and saltlicks - the three craters Ngorongoro, Olmoti and Empakaai and the Ngorongoro Highland Forest. The youths said they don’t believe there are any ecological reason behind these bans, but the aim is simply to make it extremely difficult for people – who solely depend on their livestock – to live in NCA. The youths reminded of that many studies – like that of Homewood and Rodgers – have shown that there aren’t any scientific reasons to call for evictions, but that many methods are used to oppress local people.


The youths said they were aware that the success of conservation has been attributed to the presence of Ngorongoro pastoralists using their indigenous knowledge, but that conservationists have been unaware of the efforts of people in caring for and developing the NCA. They highlighted some details, like several taboos against hunting and the consumption of game meat, and arranging villages in ways that allow animals such as elephants and zebras to easily pass through. Then there are traditional beliefs that the killing of some animals, like hippos and flamingos, will cause a curse that leads to inherited problems, and the helping and feeding of animals like hedgehogs and pangolins is a blessing leading to increased livestock. There’s also a traditional belief that the death of a hunter is caused by the hunting practices by this person. The burning of a beehive causes another curse that must be cleansed through a special ritual, and removing too much bark from a tree (for traditional medicine) leads to yet another curse. The youths detailed some plants used for traditional medicine and explained that the cutting of these plants has many rules and restrictions.


To explain the relationship between livestock and wildlife the youths used some areas - Ngutotosumbat and Ngoriondo (Indepes), Ngoile, Malanja, Emotony, Ngorongoro Crater and Olbalbal and Serengeti – as an example of how both move through the year and how this depends on dry or rainy season, access to grass and water, presence of insects or disease (malignant catarrhal fever), the preferences of different species, and the presence of olekeri grass reserves. They said that this had worked for 60 years.


The Ngorongoro youths later listed (a final press statement as still being worked on) their views as the following:


1. That, while Ngorongoro is a conservation area, it should also be recognized as the legitimate home of the indigenous people living in the area from its beginning, and that their participation is important in matters affecting their lives.


2. We urge the President to reject all reports such as Multiple Land Use Model, General Management Plan and Law Reform Commission as the whole exercise has not been participatory and is oppressive to the residents of Ngorongoro.


3. In the best interest of the community and to maintain peace within the conservation area we urge the NCAA and the government to allow pastoralists in Ngorongoro division to continue feeding their livestock in key areas for grazing, water and salt during the dry season, as in the past, via procedures that are not harmful to the area.


4. We urge the government and the NCAA to return the funds and projects of the Pastoral Council to be under this council instead of the Ngorongoro District Council in order to serve local people reliably and achieve the objectives of its establishment.


5. We urge the NCAA to refrain from restricting building permits within the conservation area.


6. We also urge the NCAA to stop harassing local people at the NCA entry gates when they return from neighbouring districts.


7. That residents have never had problems with wildlife or conservation in general, but it is the policies and laws that have been oppressive to their lives.


8. That, continuing to oppress local people in all aspects of life can certainly jeopardize the real meaning of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and bring poverty to the indigenous people for no reason.


9. We urge and request the appointing authority to replace the current chief conservator with another conservator as the current conservator has shown personal hatred against the residents of Ngorongoro.


10. That, the issue of zoning the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is going to destroy history, and conservation, and cause serious harm to human beings living within the conservation area.


11. That the people of Ngorongoro are human beings and free citizens of Tanzania and therefore have the same rights as other human beings. To continue to oppress them in all aspects of life is to violate their human rights including the right to life.


12. We also urge the NCAA to recruit Ngorongoro residents in various positions as part of their participation in conservation issues.


13. We urge the NCAA and the government to sit at the same table with the residents of Ngorongoro when it comes to finding the best way to improve the conservation area, such as tree planting campaigns, and local people are always ready to participate.


14. We also call on the media and journalists to refrain from making misleading statements against the people of Ngorongoro and to focus more on being professional. We urge the public to ignore the propaganda that some media outlets have been employing against local people.

The threat of the MLUM review proposal

For the past year and half, this blog has been reporting about the basically genocidal MLUM review proposal, and it should be repeated.


In March 2019, a joint monitoring mission from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) once again visited Ngorongoro and in their report reminded that they wanted the MLUM review completed to see the results and offer advice, while again complaining about the visual impact of settlements with “modern” houses, and so on. This did not bode well as recommendations and concerns from the UNESCO have in the past repeatedly led to a worsened human rights situation. In September 2019, chief conservator Freddy Manongi announced the MLUM review report proposal, which is so destructive that it will lead to the end of Maasai livelihoods and culture in Ngorongoro District.


 The proposal of the MLUM report is to divide Ngorongoro into zones, with an extensive “core conservation zone” that is to be a no-go zone for livestock and herders. In NCA this includes the Ngorongoro Highland Forest, with the three craters Ngorongoro, Olmoti and Empakaai where grazing these past few years has already been banned through order. This has led to a loss of 90% of grazing and water for Nainokanoka, Ngorongoro, Misigiyo wards, and a 100% loss of natural salt licks for livestock in these wards. The proposal is to do the same with Oldupai Gorge, Laitoli footprints, and the Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek basins. In the rest of Ngorongoro District, the proposal is for NCAA to annex the Lake Natron basin (including areas of Longido and Monduli districts) and the 1,500 km2 ‘Osero’ (bushland) in Loliondo and Sale Divisions, and designate most of these areas to be no-go zones for pastoralists and livestock. These large areas include many villages and are important grazing areas, the loss of which would have disastrous knock-on effects on lives and livelihoods. For years turning the 1,500 km2 Osero into a protected area has been lobbied for by OBC (that organizes hunting for Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai), and successfully resisted by the Maasai, but now NCA proposes to turn most of it into a no-go-zone, but allowing hunting (‘core conservation sub-zone’). The reason for including Loliondo and Lake Natron is in the report explained as an estimated 25% loss of tourism revenue for NCA when the upgrading of the Mto-wa-Mbu - Loliondo road has been finished and tourists will use that route to Serengeti.


As seen, this proposal very much concerns Loliondo, which is the division of Ngorongoro District that this blog has mostly focused on, except for occasional reports from NCA. The Maasai of Loliondo are in most aspects better off than those of NCA (much of their land rights activism stems from the fear of being turned into something like NCA), but have for years suffered from a bizarre local police state that terrorizes anyone who just looks like being able to speak up about investors that threaten land rights (OBC and Thomson Safaris), and where there have been major brutal and illegal mass arson operations in 2009 and 2017, and also significant violence and arson committed by soldiers from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force working for OBC in 2018. Though other than participating in a rather weak statement by all Ngorongoro councillors, the reaction from Loliondo to the MLUM review proposal has mainly looked like an ostrich strategy.


There were complaints as soon as the MLUM proposal was presented, and then Minister Kigwangalla agreed that “community representatives” would be added to the MLUM review team, and the NCA wards re-visited. On 5th October 2019, the Pastoral Council, that ostensibly represent the local pastoralists in the NCAA, finally issued a statement, but it seemed weak, and compromised, and it misrepresented Loliondo. On 29th October 2019, a statement by the ward councillors of Ngorongoro District was even weaker.


The MLUM review team again toured the wards and could again observe people’s unsurprising rejection of any evictions. The community views were briefly mentioned in the new version of the report, but the “community representatives” were side-lined, which they panicked about, refusing to share the new version of the report, in which exactly the same genocidal proposal was repeated. It was reported that at a regional CCM meeting there were assurances that there was no way that the ruling party would support the proposal for evictions. Some traditional leaders from NCA went to see the CCM secretary-general Bashiru Ally towards the end of 2019 (not sure what came out of this).


In March 2020, a MoU was signed between the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council (PC), the Ngorongoro District Council, and the NCAA, after pressure by the MNRT and others, for funds to bypass the PC to instead go to the District Council, and for PC employees to be directly employed by the NCAA. The reason for this was mismanagement and corruption among PC members, but at the same time it gave more power to the person corrupting them – chief conservator Manongi.


Following the signing of the MoU, Several young professionals from NCA wrote an open letter to president Magufuli about the injustices, threats, and mismanagement going on in NCA.


On 14th April 2020 the Pastoral Council, customary leaders, and village and ward leaders from NCA held a press conference in Arusha with a much stronger statement than the previous one. They called upon the president and the prime minister to intervene against the abuse committed by the MLUM team - together with chief conservator Manongi whom they wanted removed - that have proposed measures to remove over 15 villages and turn the Maasai into refugees in their own country.


On 23rd April 2020, a collection of leaders from Ngorongoro were summoned to Kigwangalla in Dodoma, and were promised four new community representatives, and told that the Ngorongoro residents should compose their own ideal proposal, submit it to the committee, and send him a copy. At a feedback meeting in Mokilal the MP was booed by the attendants who wanted to cut all engagement with the MLUM team, but finally the MP side managed to impose their view that the offer should be taken, but this time accompanied by public pressure (of which not much has been seen so far).


In May 2020, the councillor for Endulen, who now is the district council chairman, reported about how NCA rangers were conducting an operation, invading villages to interrogate people about houses that had been built and doing reconnaissance of areas under threat of mass eviction, even using a plane, and that the rangers then went to the market at Naiborsoit where they arrested three women small-scale traders that were taken to Loliondo and illegally detained for 48 hours. Surprisingly, the DC (a known human rights criminal) ordered that the rangers should be arrested and said that they had been acting on their own behalf, and that Manongi had in no way ordered them. The councillor also reported that the new “community representatives” had been given terms of reference that more looked like preparing for evictions than preparing a community proposal to be sent to Kigwangalla.


At the meeting of all councillors of Ngorongoro District Council that ended on 3rd June 2020, the information was that the NCAA had approved funding of 5 billion TZShs for the task of expanding its boundaries – according to the proposal in the MLUM report - to become 12,000 km2 and to include the Osero in Loliondo and Lake Natron. This included the cost of “relocations”. Reportedly, the councillors resolved to work against the plan regardless of consequences and were discussing the way forward – but then the elections got in the way … and they became busy praising the government, while burying their heads in the sand.


Nothing more was heard from Kigwangalla, except that he and the permanent secretary to the MNRT went on to threaten Lake Natron GCA – that’s included in the genocidal proposal – with a Game Reserve and a Wildlife Management Area, against which there was a protestmeeting in Engaresero a few days later. Then Kigwangalla just intensified the threat.


On 1st July 2020, a statement addressed to President Magufuli from the traditional leaders of Ngorongoro ward - the villages of Mokilal, Kayapus and Oloirobi - in Ngorongoro district was read by Njamama Medukenya and Sembeta Ngoidiko on Global tv. These leaders called for the president to hear their cry about their land that keep being stolen for conservation and tourism, and ask him to stop the current proposal, while reminding of that since they were evicted from Serengeti in 1959, there have been multiple violations of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance.


MP Olenasha while contesting for the CCM candidacy for the Ngorongoro parliamentary seat, chose to deny any threat in the MLUM review proposal, calling it “propaganda” by his opponents.


On 13th September, the councillor of Endulen posted in social media, apparently in a panic, about a visit to NCA by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, adding that while other Tanzanians are busy finding leaders that will bring them development the coming five years, people in Ngorongoro live in fear and doubt due to various ongoing committees working to undermine the rights of the people. Not much more was heard about this.


On 16th October 2020, the election campaign had brought PM Majaliwa to Loliondo, and he could have declared that the genocidal proposal would definitely not be implemented, that everyone could go on with their lives as normal, and no land would be taken. Though instead of this Majaliwa insisted on denying, deflecting, and using the horrible word “participatory” (shirikishi).


The so-called “elections” were a violent horror with vote rigging all over the country. On election day in Ngorongoro 23-year-old Salula Ngorisiolo was killed when police and NCA rangers opened fire at unarmed voters who were protesting the blocking of opposition polling agents.


Then on 28th – 30th December 2020, NCAA held a workshop for editors and senior journalists, of course including enthusiastic participation by Tanzania’s most anti-Maasai journalist, Manyerere Jackton, and misleading reporting in various newpapers, not least the Jamhuri.


On 21st January 2021, a delegation representing councillors and traditional leaders from Ngorongoro Conservation Area met the press in Arusha.


And on 8th February 2021, youths from Ngorongoro held their own press conference in Dar es Salaam.


In Ngorongoro division people have not been silenced and the struggle continues.

Susanna Nordlund









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